I am not a great swimmer. I have been working on my swim stroke for more than ten years. It is improving, but still not as smooth as I would like. But ya know what? That’s okay. It works in my favor.
When I’m in the water, whether I am just swimming stroke drills, swimming long intervals or short sprints, I focus on form. I try to feel the water over me. I feel my hand enter the water, pull through and pull out again, all the while, try to remember to kick. When I’m all wrapped up in this, I don’t think of much else.
When I swim, I don’t think of anything else at work, no bill, no work projects. Just the swim stroke. It becomes a moving meditation.
I do this in most of my athletic efforts. I remind myself to strike the ground gently and quietly while running. Stand up straight, lean forward from my ankles, lead with my bellybutton. On the bike it’s all about smooth, fluid circles, flat back, loose grip on the bars.
The meditation helps me. Helps improve my perspective and attitude. Helps remind me to be grateful. I have a lot, and therefor, a lot for which to be grateful.
I have long felt my bike was a tool for healing. It was my freedom as a child. It became that freedom again as a young adult, and continues to offer freedom, wonder, meditative quiet and a sort of healing of the spirit.
I have a buddy named Mark who is taking this to another level. He, too, started cycling at a young age. He had a bike early on in his military career. When things in his life fell apart, cycling would eventually help him fight his demons and give him the chance to help his brothers-in-arms.
Mark will be riding the Ride 2 Recovery Army vs Navy Challenge starting in West Point, New York at the US Military Academy, and ending on October 3, at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, just in time for the Navy vs Air Force football game. The event’s tag line is “Saving Lives by Restoring Hope and Purpose”.
This event gives my friend the opportunity to show how cycling has changed his life and how it might help other former servicemen and women to heal. What better purpose could there be?
The Cobbled Classics and spring Monuments are done. Some of cycling’s heroes didn’t even get to the start line. I have friends who openly lamented the absence of Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. Paris-Roubaix “Would have been so much better” had the two dominant riders been on the roads of Northern France. Alas, it was not to be. But what did we have?
Paris-Roubaix ended with a five-up sprint in the fabled Roubaix velodrome. I don’t know how it could have been better. Exciting to the very last pedal stroke. Had Spartacus and Tornado Tom been racing, they would have been nearly prohibitive favorites. The two had won seven of the last ten editions. Like it or not, John Degenkolb’s victory was exciting and great fun to watch.
Women are getting more opportunities in the spotlight. Her in the US, they will have big-time races at the same time as the men at both the Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. While this might not make household names of the winers, it will get exposure and hopefully encourage more women and girls to get on their bikes and ride.
This sport of cycling, whether competitive or just for fun, is so wonderful. I am signed up for all of my big events for the year. I am riding two of the three with friends, but the longest one, Ride the Rockies, I plan to meet new friends.
Ride the Rockies has been a great experience over the last four years. I’ve met ladies making dinner on their little portable grill in Leadville. I met a woman from the US Virgin Islands. I’ve met cycling heroes and I’ve met people changing the lives of those around them and changing their own. RTR gives me the chance to meet more people, people from all over the US. Racers, Wounded Warriors, enthusiastic neo-pros, retired legends and people just out for a good time, they are all out there. All have great stories and I can’t wait ’til June so I can meet them.
Get into one of the many organized events of the summer. Get out to see the landscape in a different way and with friends you haven’t met. It’s a great way to spend a day, a weekend or a week.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.